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Last checked: 11/07/2019

Guarantees and returns – United Kingdom

Affected by Brexit?

Legal guarantee

How long is the legal guarantee for new and second-hand goods?

The duration is 6 years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 5 years in Scotland. This applies to new and second-hand goods.This is the maximum time limit, however any claim needs to take into account the nature of the goods and possible wear and tear, for example.

If the product is defective, who is responsible for putting things right?

The seller, including purchases made on an Internet platform. In addition to this, the consumers can make claims against credit card and finance companies if the product is paid for by credit card (directly to the trader) or by finance arranged for this particular purchase. This applies to purchases of the goods of value between GBP 100 and GBP 30 000.

By when must the consumer notify the seller of a defect?

The consumer must act within a reasonable period of noticing the defect but there is no specific deadline other than the legal prescription period of 6 years (5 years in Scotland).

Who has to prove the presence/absence of a defect and how long do they have to do this?

The seller must prove that the item was not defective for the first 6 months after the delivery of the product ("reversal of burden of proof"). After this time the consumer must prove that it was defective.

Is there a third party testing body that can help to provide proof?

The consumer can ask any repair shop for an expert opinion, but they do not have to give one and their opinion might not be accepted by the seller. In the event of a court procedure, the judge may accept the consumer's expert's opinion or ask for an independent expert opinion. There is a limited number of bodies offering industry-specific expertise, but these reports can be costly to obtain with the consumers possibly needing to pay for the report upfront with a view towards it being reimbursed.

What remedies is the consumer entitled to free of charge? Is there a deadline for implementing the solution?

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 consumers can argue short term right to reject the item, if the fault occurs within the initial 30 days from delivery date. This law also allows consumers to ask to reject the goods or ask for a price reduction after one failed attempt to resolve the problem through repair or replacement.

In practice, companies will at first offer to repair or replace the item. Consumers can insist on a different remedy if the one offered cannot be provided without causing the consumer significant inconvenience (consumer detriment). When the remedy is considered disproportionate to the value of goods or impossible (trader detriment), traders can insist on  a particular remedy (for example, refund instead of repair).

Any solution should be provided within a reasonable period of time.

Is the repaired/replaced product covered by a new guarantee?

No. The guarantee period is only extended by the time necessary for repair or replacement (subject to terms and conditions of the commercial guarantee).

Can the consumer take action against the importer or any intermediary in the supply chain up to and including the producer?

It is normally only possible to claim damages caused by a faulty or unsafe product, but not necessarily remedies under the legal guarantee.

If no amicable solution can be found, what is the deadline for taking the case to court?

The prescription period is normally 6 years (England, Wales, Northern Ireland) or 5 years (Scotland) from the delivery of the goods. This is unless the limitation period is suspended.

Are any other legal guarantees laid down in national law coexisting with the legal conformity guarantee?

Yes. Commercial guarantees given after 31 March 2003 are considered to be legally binding.

Commercial warranty

Who is responsible for application of the warranty?

The party offering the warranty, be it the seller, the producer or a third party guarantor. Always refer to the documentation provided.

On average, how long is a commercial warranty?

Mostly, it is 1 to 5 years, and in most cases 2 years. More expensive goods usually have a longer warranty (even up to 7 years for new cars) which often applies to specific parts of the product.

Is it free of charge?

Not necessarily. The trader can fix the conditions, so it can be free of charge or offered against payment.

Does it have to be confirmed in writing?

The seller has to provide the commercial warranty in a written document or in a durable and accessible format.

What information is required?

It must include the content of the warranty, all essential elements such as duration and geographical coverage, details of the company offering it and a reminder of the legal guarantee. Consumers should also be advised that the warranty can be provided by other parties, as well as that the same coverage may be provided by insurance policies the consumer may have. Consumers need to be made aware that buying a commercial warranty is optional.

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